Erica Vladimer, a former New York state Senate staffer who recently helped to organize the first hearings on sexual harassment in Albany in 27 years, announced Monday she will seek to unseat a longtime House member in next year’s Democratic primary.
“Congress is 435 people big, so this new generation with this new voice needs to be louder, and that means adding new voices,” Vladimer, 32, told HuffPost of her run. “I want to be a part of that generation adding my voice.”
She wants to unseat Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th Congressional District, which encompasses much of Manhattan’s East Side. Maloney, 73, was first elected to the House in 1992.
Vladimer said she never thought she’d become a politician following a traumatic incident in which she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a state senator in 2015. In January 2018, Vladimer came forward for the first time to tell HuffPost that Democrat Jeff Klein allegedly “shoved his tongue” down her throat at a bar while she worked on his staff.
Klein, who denied the allegation, lost his reelection in last September’s primary to newcomer Alessandra Biaggi, despite spending $3 million on his campaign.
Since coming forward, Vladimer has helped lead the Sexual Harassment Working Group with six other former New York state Legislature staffers who all say they experienced, witnessed or reported sexual harassment by state lawmakers. The women spurred and testified at a joint legislative public hearing on sexual harassment at the state Capitol in Albany in February.
A similar hearing was held in New York City last week. And proposals by the group to make state politics more equitable and safe have been taken up by lawmakers.
“I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and really have reclaimed my voice and my path that one man in a powerful institution made me feel like I didn’t belong on and knocked me off for a few years,” Vladimer said. “And it’s really been such an interesting self-reflective time. But I’m feeling ready. I’m feeling really ready.”
Along with her participation with the Working Group, Vladimer has been working at the New York City Independent Budget Office, which provides information to the public about the municipality’s spending and economy.
In taking on Maloney, Vladimer will seek to emulate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the political world when she triumphed over another seemingly entrenched New York House member, Joe Crowley, in last year’s Democratic primary.
Discussing her platform, Vladimer said that aside from promoting workplace protections, she wants to focus on her first passion: education policy. She calls for ensuring that disabled children get the full services they require and that in general more funding gets funneled to education on a state and federal level.
She’s also passionate about expanding paid parental leave, protecting Roe v. Wade as more states push laws that severely limit abortion rights, and addressing public health concerns like the recent measles outbreak that spread throughout Brooklyn.
“I’ve always seen government as a force for good, that’s why I went to law school to get into education policy reform,” Vladimer said. “That’s why I then went to work for the New York state government... At one point, I didn’t feel like I fully belonged there anymore because one man decided that he could abuse his power.”
She added that once “I was able to tell my story and then meet these other amazing women and reclaim my voice, I realized what a critical moment in history this is, and we can’t keep the status quo going.”